Elbow bursitis


What is elbow bursitis?

Olecranic bursitis is the inflammation  of the elbow bursa , which fills with fluid, increases in volume, and presses on surrounding structures, limiting movement.

In principle, anyone can develop bursitis, but athletes and certain professional groups are usually particularly affected due to overexertion of the bursa or as a result of trauma. There are two types of bursitis:

  • Inflammation-related bursitis can be caused by overuse, chemical and septic nature.
  • Hemorrhagic bursitis is caused by external violence ( trauma or accident).

What is a bursa?

The bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac found between two tendons, between bone and tendon, or between tendon and skin.
The purpose of the bag is to reduce the friction generated by the tendons, to distribute the load evenly over the joint and to absorb excessive pressure.

What are the causes of bursitis?

Inflammatory overuse bursitis is also known as friction bursitis because when you move, the tendons slide back and forth on surrounding structures, creating friction.

Athletes, housewives and certain professional groups that   carry out unnatural and repetitive work processes are particularly at risk   . Tennis players are particularly prone to elbow bursitis, as are students who spend long hours at their desks with their elbows propped up. The disease has a slow and progressive course; the initial stage is treacherous, because at first the discomfort is not very painful and the patient tends to neglect it; however, without treatment, bursitis can become chronic, prolonging the healing process.

In rare cases, rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can also be the cause of the inflammation of the elbow bursa. However, it can also result from injuries in the form of a direct blow to the elbow , such as a contusion .
Hemorrhagic inflammation occurs when the elbow suffers abrasions from falls.
Infection-related or septic bursitis results from an infection , which is usually caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus .

What are the symptoms of bursitis?

The main symptom of olecranon bursitis is swelling (intumescence) , which in some cases can appear as a spherical bump several centimeters in diameter below the elbow.
Patients complain of severe or unbearable pain when pressure is applied to the problem area and during movement.
In the acute phase, the affected area is red and overheated due to the blood flow.

How is the diagnosis made?

To diagnose elbow bursitis, the doctor examines the patient, feels the elbow, and asks about their medical history in detail. A swollen, soft bump
may appear in the lower elbow area , which may be red and overheated in acute or septic inflammation. Bursitis can   result in a slight, pain-related limitation of movement , especially when bending. Ultrasound is the most suitable imaging method for diagnosing olecranon bursitis ; in rare cases, the doctor orders an X-ray examination or magnetic resonance; he will do this if there is an injury-related cause.

Complications of this disease are expressed in the form of infection , that is, the development into septic bursitis.

What can you do? Which therapy is suitable?

First of all, the type of bursitis needs to be distinguished, because hemorrhagic or septic bursitis requires a completely different treatment than that caused by overuse or inflammation after trauma. In the case of the latter, it is recommended to first immobilize the joint and use cold packs or ice for a maximum of 24-48 hours.

After 2 days, cold treatment (cryotherapy) is no longer advisable as it causes congestion and slows down the healing process. When the acute inflammation subsides, the exertional bursitis is bandaged with a compression bandage to prevent trauma-related infections; heat applications can also be helpful, as can physical therapies such as laser treatment, ultrasound and Tecartherapy ®.

Cortisone infiltrations can be injected directly into the affected area. In stubborn cases, the doctor will suck the fluid out of the bag; If this is not sufficient either, the last step is surgical removal of the bursa.

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